Me and my iPod

December 15, 2007

iPod with Griffin AirClick hat

Following on from my iTunes post, I thought I’d note for posterity my iPod useage, in other words how I’ve adapted the out of the box setup. As you can see, mine’s a fourth gen. Photo iPod, white, 60GB:

Engraved on the back is ‘This iPod belongs to ….’ – makes it near impossible to resell, but makes it mine and if it’s ever stolen, I’ll gain a little comfort from the difficulty this causes. If it’s ever lost, my name’s relatively unusual and I can be traced.

    iPod screen with notes menuI’ve reduced the number of menu options to three – Genre / Notes / Settings. As with my iTunes setup, I use genres as a first step in deciding what to listen to – to me this makes much more sense that endlessly scrolling through album, artist or song titles. I’m not a fan at all of random selection. Notes – I’m a Quicksilver user and I’m always appending stuff to .txt files (to do list, what to listen to ideas, miscellaneous, ideas, shopping, books to read, stuff to buy, etc, etc). I upload these to my iPod on a regular basis. I no longer use my Sony Clie (can’t even find the damn thing!), though I still wistfully wait for a phone decent enough to take its place.

      Picture of remote

      Griffin AirClick. How does anybody ever put up with only using the controls on the front of the iPod? I didn’t get an Apple wired remote with my iPod, but my friend Dan was kind enough to donote his to me. I used that until recently when the connection became faulty. I considered buying a new Apple remote, but I never used the radio and baulked at paying £35. I started to look around at other options and stumbled upon a mention of the Griffin and snagged a new one via Amazon resellers for about £12. It consists of a unit that plugs into the top of the iPod (bottom for 5th gen), into which the headphones then plug. The remote is wireless so no more fumbling with wires, I just put the iPod in a pocket and don’t have to bother with it again until the CD ends. The remote has play/pause, back/forward and volume up/down. I’m also turning the music up or down because of the (welcome) changes in volume. And the unit makes a lovely little hat for the iPod. Which is nice. Suggested improvement to the remote would consist of a different transport for the buttons which are too wobbly, so that it’s necessary to remember to press firmly to ensure the button operates. I don’t always remember this and am sometimes annoyed at having to press more than once. A real ‘click’ would be nice.

        Shure headphone

        Shure EC3 headphones. Bought from someone Stateside for much cheaper than the English price, thankfully wasn’t nabbed for excise. Never even removed the iPod ones from their packet. Spent months trying to sort out the best way of wearing the Shures (the instructions said behind your neck and down your back – this didn’t work, was always pulling out). Then with a month to go before the two year warranty expired, one side stopped playing. The instructions on the new ones suggested another way of wearing them with the cord over the ear as before, but then snaking under the chin. Hey presto – perfect comfort. Which clearly shows how daft I am, that I didn’t think of this before. Sound is very good – much better than my previous Sony Fontopias. Could do with a bit more bass, but the sound is generally very well defined and the insulation from the outside world is more than adequate.

        [Originally posted on A Personal Miscellany]


Headphones

December 12, 2007

Sony headphones

When I bought my iPod a couple of years back, I didn’t even open the packet with the Apple headphones, but continued to use the Sony inner ear headphones I’d previously been using with my Discman. I thought they were pretty good.

Shure E3C headphones

Then I invested a fair amount of money in some better headphones, Shure E3Cs. They were a real pain at first – the wires are supposed to be snaked round the back of the head and over the ears, but the lead is too heavy for this and kept tugging the phones out of my ears. Fit is everything with this type of headphone. I eventually found that hanging the lead over my shoulder and inserting them in the more traditional way did the job. I was pretty much insulated from external sounds. A week or so ago, I noticed the volume on the left headphone was something between 25 and 50% of the other one. I did some web research and they’re still in their two year warranty. I’ve just sent them off for replacement. I have my fingers crossed that there’s no problem and that I’ll receive a brand new pair within a week or so. In the meantime, I went back to my old pair of Sony Fontopia, but found the sound awfully thin and lightweight. Which prompted me to finally break out the iPod ‘phones. I wore them today while travelling to and from Internet World, a webby trade fair at Earls Court 2. UGH!! the headphones I mean – the fair was fairly interesting… I won’t bang on about the sound quality as such complaints are pretty much a given – suffice to say ‘wet sponge/towel wrapped round head’, etc.

iPod headphones

It’s made me really, really appreciate the E3Cs – there may be better on the market now in their price range, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that spending the money on a decent pair of headphones is a worthwhile investment, particularly if you value things like sense of space (how the music is heard in what’s apparently called a/the? soundstage), bass, clarity, drama and so on. I’m no audiophile – I’m currently listening to Bullwackie’s All Stars’ Nature’s Dub through my Powerbook speakers (a sin I know, I know) – but I’m spoilt and will be pacing up and down, grimacing and gritting my teeth impatiently until I (hopefully) receive my replacement ‘bins’.

Until I can find the time to fix the **()&)!@!@ commenting, please email any responses to this or future posts to me: enquiries + the a with a circle round it + eleventhvolume + full stop + com. Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks.

[Originally published on A Personal Miscellany]


Good introduction to ear-canal headphones (Playlist)

February 4, 2007

three types of canal headphones

As more and more people own iPods, Zens, and Zunes, and use those players in noisy environments, in-ear-canal headphones—commonly known as “canalphones” or “in-ear monitors”—have become increasingly popular. As a high-quality option for replacing the cheap headphones included with portable music and media players, the selection of canalphones has, over the past decade, evolved from a few expensive models to a wide-open market with dozens of choices across a wide price range.

I bought my first pair of ear-canal headphones a couple of years ago – Shure E3Cs. Once I’d got the hang of how best to wear them (over the ear, but with the cord hanging down under my chin), I’ve found them to be really comfortable to the point of not being aware that I’m wearing them. The sound is generally excellent – though the sub-bass of Dubstep and Jungle does get rather lost, however I suspect the same would happen to other types of headphone as well. Needless to say, I’d love to hear what the top end ear-canal versions sound like. Even before buying my Shures I used what the article refers to as canalbuds, but the difference in the general richness of the sound is really noticeable. I did notice when getting friends to try out the canalbuds that the sound took a little while to get used to – particularly when swapping from the iPod default headphones which although woolly and undistinguished sound initially a little fuller. Once acclimatised there was no way of going back though.

Link: Playlist article

There’s another shorted and less detailed introduction just been published at MacWorld.


Brilliant music technologies video

February 3, 2007

record player

record player explodes

mono cassette player

CD player

I just stumbled across this video on an MP3 blog and think it’s absolutely brilliant. It cycles through and literally explodes a small number of key pieces of music playback hardware, ending up with what my awfully limited knowledge of Spanish translates as ‘music is never going to die’ (la musica nunca va a morir). It appears to be an ad for a Spanish design/music/technology magazine. Do follow the link below to watch it all!

(Oh and seeing one of the old cassette players with the piano keys and integrated mono speaker (do they still make them?) reminds me that I used to borrow my dad’s one – a weighty brushed metal and black plastic affair protected by a leather outer cover – and take it to school. In particularly boring lessons I’d plug in a mono ear piece, snake the wire through my jacket, plug it into the cassette recorder secreted in my school bag and listen to my recently recorded John Peel compilation tapes. This was, for sure, before the mainstream popularity of Sony Walkmans. I never did get caught…)

Link: dailymotion.com page
Via: Original Funk Music


A retro moment: vintage transistor radios

January 31, 2007

Transistor radio

Here’s a lovely Flickr gallery of vintage transistor radios. Sigh…

Reminds me of the time a few years ago that I visited a friend of my parents who lived in a small and quite ordinary cottage in a nearby village in the Yorkshire Dales. However, in his garden he had not one, but three sheds. Each was brimful of valve and transistor radios as well as stacks of gleaming 50s car radios that looked like miniature versions of those huge American cars that seemed to have existed in another galaxy, let alone another decade.

Link: Roadsidepictures’ Flickr gallery
Via: Retro Thing


Gizmodo: three months with the iPod

January 27, 2007

Zune

Gizmodo deliver an admirably even-handed overview after three months with Microsoft’s Zune. Though a long-term Apple user, I found myself dismayed by the negative reception accorded the Zune and felt that the interface was a step-up from the iPod in terms of attractiveness and customisability. Caveat: said observation made only from viewing online video, not personal experience.

Gizmodo find that the player does have some advantages over the market leader, but end up recommending Apple’s product because of the latter’s better infrastructure. It could also be that the Zune will be rather more embattled if there’s a significant iPod update announced at the rumoured Apple special event on 20th February.

Link: Gizmodo article


Nike wristband iPod controllers

January 25, 2007

Nike wristband iPod controller

Engadget has a report of leaked photos of upcoming Nike gear. Not being exactly the world’s greatest exerciser, I’ll pass on the ability to measure displays distance, pace, elapsted time, and calories, but the

three iPod controlling watch systems including the Amp+, and the so-similar-they-may-be-the-same-product Flight+ and Aero+ (which features voice feedback and a rocking bezel for music control)

have me interested. I currently use a Griffin Airclick plugged into my iPod and a remote controller I keep in my pocket (detailed in this post about my iPod setup. When I bought it to replace a broken Apple wired remote, a friend bet I’d lose it. I did, but found it again a few days later – I really didn’t like being without it and having to dig out the iPod itself to slightly adjust volume or pause/play seems a very unattractive way of going about things. I don’t wear a watch so this Nike looks attractive, at least in theory. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly my style, but even so, I’m tempted to consider one. Engadget reports it will be out May 1st.

Link: Engadget article